Monday, August 31, 2009

Science and Sages

I've been thinking a lot lately about forgiveness. No matter which religion you were raised in there's a good chance that forgiveness was figured prominently. We also run across it countless times in quotes from famous thinkers and our literature is strewn with themes of forgiveness. It makes you wonder...what really gives?

Once again, we find science and spirituality coming together in a powerful and profound way to teach us that by changing our own lives we impact the world in which we live. Author and lecturer, Marianne Williamson calls it the evolution of the consciousness of the species by way of the evolution and maturity of our own thinking. Quantum physics tells us that on a subatomic level atoms and particles constantly communicate through a field of energy. We constantly affect that field by our thoughts, which more importantly affect our emotions, which send a waive of chemicals into our bodies and beyond. Quantum physics, the study of subatomic elements, builds upon Newtonian physics by teaching us that there is so much more that happens when that apple falls from that tree. Spirituality chimes in to remind us that we are all one, that we don't stop at our skin. We're all made from the same stuff, that essence of life from which we came - call it God, or love or the universe - it is creative, responsive and ubiquitous. A Course In Miracles tells us that, "Ideas never leave their source." We constantly create our lives through our thoughts, feelings and beliefs.

Great, but what does it all mean? It makes me think about author Malachy McCourt, who said, "Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die." When we hold anger and resentment in our hearts, we not only hurt ourselves, we impact our environment and how it responds back to us. We might feel good in the short run by letting off steam and bitching about another person; we might even feel justified in our complaints (it's that right vs. happy thing) but we are never served by it. In the long run it is more devastating to our lives than we even know - as those quantum physicists are learning. Of course, our spiritual masters have known these truths all along. They just didn't need scientists to corroborate it for them. They got their information from a higher, more trusted source. But now our minds are getting the evidence that we so often seek beyond faith.

I had the opportunity this week to bring two old friends together again. They had left each other, years ago, on bad terms. When we sat down together, it became instantly clear that one person didn't even remember the circumstances that the other person had held as a source of their pain for so long. When all was said and done, it was evident that all that was left, the most important thing, was the love that still remained between them. Think of how many years of pain could have been avoided. While we are holding on to that grudge, the other person has forgotten the whole episode. They've moved on in their lives, but we haven't. We've drunk the poison with no ill effect on the other person and we stand holding the heavy burden. And when we hold on to that pain, our thoughts about it create feelings, which produce chemicals that adversely affect our physical bodies. Take that one step further - thanks to our wise philosophers, spiritual teachers and quantum physicists - and now we know that those chemicals impact particles that change our world and quality of life. We cause illness in our bodies when we hold on to pain, anger and resentment. Those emotions incite stress hormones and other deleterious chemicals and those chemicals don't stop at our skin. They begin a ripple effect in our world that bring more pain and upset. In an ever expanding circle of interconnectedness, we even contribute to that pool of hatred and war. That's a lot to sacrifice for not forgiving someone.

On the upside, we are always at choice and can, at any given moment, change everything. Let's be inspired by the example of Immacule Ilabegeza who forgave the brutal murder of her family in the Rwandan genocide. We're always at choice. And remember, forgiveness does not invalidate your pain. You are not condoning what they did to you. This is not about them. This is about you. You are setting yourself free. As A Course In Miracles says, "We are spiritually generous out of self interest." It is our world and our lives we are seeking to change for the better, and yet we can't help but do it for another since science and sages tell us that we are all connected. As the Talmud so brilliantly states it, “A light for one is light for a hundred.”

If we are really taking full responsibility for everything that happens in our lives, good and bad, then we understand that people and situations are brought to us by our own making in order to learn something. Usually the lesson involves learning how to have more compassion and more love;  not only for the person that hurt us but for ourselves, as well. Forgiveness then becomes another mental habit in our arsenal for happiness. It is not difficult, it is just different. This world teaches us to blame the cause for our unhappiness on someone else - on something outside of ourselves. But we're learning a new way of being that gives us all the power in the world to create happy, peaceful lives.

I would encourage you this week to bring to mind people who have hurt you; people who you have not yet forgiven. Those who you might quickly push out of your mind as quickly as you think of them because it is too painful. Begin to make peace with them in your mind. Write a list of their positive aspects so that you can remember a better side of them. Begin to forgive them and forgive yourself for your own complicity. Then pray, in whichever way you choose, for their highest good and happiness. You don't have to do anything more than that for miracles to occur. You don't have to call, write or see  them unless you want to. Chances are, like my friend, they might not even remember the incident. Besides, that divine field will elegantly carry your message. Remember, this exercise of forgiveness is for you. It will ease your burden and set you free. By virtue of that, your world will change. You will get proof in ways that you can't even imagine - that quantum field and spiritual truth will delight you in subtle ways. Keep an eye out for them. I commend you. This is not an easy exercise, but it is one of the most important contributions that we can make for inner peace, which will in turn beautifully contribute to the world's peace.

I leave you this week with some wise words from Marianne Williamson when she was expounding on a lesson from A Course In Miracles that states 'Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want.' "When I say forgiveness offers you everything you want, I meant everything, because forgiveness means you will then return to your most loving self. Your most loving self is your Christ self, your Buddha self, your true self...When you are that, when you become that, then you will attract to yourself everything that reflects that. Give love, get love. Simple as that."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Inside Out

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about happiness, which is a good thing since I’m blogging on the subject. We all know that happiness is an inside job. Real happiness has nothing to do with external circumstances. We know that on some level, but we forget so quickly. We still run around trying to choreograph (which is a kinder word for control) every aspect of our lives in order to conform to our pictures of what we think will constitute happiness. Our relationships must look a certain way, our careers, our homes, communities, our 2.5 children. We try to get all these ducks in a row so that we can then settle down, relax and be happy. But that never works. It hurls us into that illusive future that never comes; it postpones our good. We find ourselves waiting until it’s just so, or until we’ve earned it. It is an endless chore that leaves us frustrated, tired and multi-tasking to that point where we wish we had never heard that word. When we rely on external circumstances to make us happy and bring us the joy that we seek, we lose one hundred percent of the time. I’m here to encourage you to relax. Stop the incessant drive toward futility and choose to focus on the happiness that already exists within. As best selling author and cofounder of the Omega Institute, Elizabeth Lesser so soothingly puts it, “There is no one to impress, nothing to get, nowhere to rush to, nothing to miss out on. The truth is always there, plain and simple, hiding somewhere near you.”

The truth is that the happiness we seek is already within us. It then becomes a deliberate choice of how we will proceed. I think we often fear that if we go within we will have to forfeit the “stuff” that we want. I have two things to say about that. First of all, “stuff” is highly overrated. Take a look at the brilliant perspective by Annie Leonard who produced The Story of Stuff. Secondly, when we act from the inside out, prompted and directed by our intuition and divine guidance we attract our hearts desire in a way we could have never dreamed. A Course In Miracles puts it so well when it says, “Fear of the Will of God is one of the strangest beliefs the human mind has ever made.” By whatever words you name it – God, The Universe, your Buddha nature, Allah, Christ consciousness, your higher self, love or that quantum force that connects us all – I think we agree that we are all part of a divine essence. It connects us all and it responds to our conscious thoughts. Why would we fear it? Perhaps this strong yearning for happiness is the very impetus we need to go within and discover the truth of who we are. It is only then that we are truly happy.

As a society, we have learned to go for happiness from the outside. It’s the way we were taught. There is a recipe for success and if we follow it we will be happy, right? Not so much. I know a lot of people who are wildly successful and rich with all the trappings that define happiness to a tee and they are the furthest thing from it. They are left with a void and a strong case of, “is that all there is?” The high of the new last thing has worn off and it leaves them wanting for more. That line that we thought would surely signify happiness when we crossed it begins to move every time we approach it. This was the role model for happiness that we were given. Unfortunately, it has built a world of insatiable greed and avarice. Fortunately, we are at choice and we are beginning to change things from a place of stability and power – from the inside where all creation exists. We stand poised on an exciting stage of possibility.

Dr. Robert Holden, psychologist and founder of the Happiness Project in England, tells us that, “Those looking for happiness often don't realize they already have it…you don't chase happiness out there. You learn that you're happy inside you…. Then you go into the world.” One of his big prescriptions for happiness is to be present, live in the moment. He says, “Living in the ‘not now’ is a chief cause of unhappiness. The strain of being not present in your own life is simply too great. When you miss out on the present, you miss out on so much. No now; no life. In the English language, the word ‘present’ has three distinct meanings: ‘here’, ‘now’ and ‘a gift.’"

It’s not as hard as we think to change our external quest for happiness to an internal one. It’s a simple shift of consciousness and it takes practice. The more we practice, the more it will become natural. The more natural it becomes the happier we are inclined to be. This begins to shift in the way our world responds back to us. The mirror changes so the reflection has to as well. Buddhism has a beautiful concept know as esho-funi, oneness of life and its environment. The two are not separate but one. When one changes the other has no choice, they are two integral phases of a single reality. Discover your happiness within and it will be reflected without. Your life will change and you will find the happiness that you desire without all the stuff.

This week I would encourage, as always, to be mindful of your thoughts. Change your mind about those things that make you feel bad. For the most part, it’s just a story that we keep telling ourselves. This week let’s mine our inner storehouse for happiness. Make a list of 25 things, people, places or activities that make you happy. Maybe it’s something that you haven’t done or thought of in a long time. Then go do that. Tap into that place inside you where there is a wellspring of joy. You may find that it will bring a new relationship, home or career direction. There are countless numbers of people who have stumbled upon a new career path by virtue of doing something that made them happy in the moment. Greg Mortensen comes to mind. A man who has established over 90 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan as a result of climbing the second-highest mountain on Earth, K2, to honor his sister’s memory. I think of the prominent attorney whose casual, polite greeting of a homeless man in the park turned into an idea of Book Club for the Homeless – the idea is now catching on globally. One man with a kind gesture – nothing makes him happier – take a good look at his face as you watch this video I leave you with this week. I leave you also with a quote by Henry Miller who said, "If we have not found heaven within, it is a certainty we will not find it without."

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Suze Speaks

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something Suze Orman said on Oprah. The woman, deemed a “one-woman financial advice powerhouse” by USA Today, for the most part scares the living crap out of me. I fall short on so many levels according to her financial rules. But even some of her best laid plans and strategies for people have buckled under the strain of this economy and she has found it necessary go deeper in her counsel. Remember, she mostly deals with the symptoms of our lives and not with the causes; and yet it’s the causes, the thoughts and the beliefs that speak the loudest and dictate the most. It was to them she spoke when she said, “We must be grateful for what we have, not for what we had.” Brilliant. Simple.

Suze was talking about mourning less over the loss of “stuff” and being more grateful for what we still have. She was advising a minister and his wife, who had lost their life savings, to concentrate on the positive aspects of their lives. She was trying to shift their focus. But like most of us the “yeah but” came into play so quickly, with all of its reasons and justifications, that it pushed her wise counsel right out the window. ‘You make a good point, Suze, but what about my 401k, my retirement, my future? How am I supposed to be happy when I have lost so much?’ When we win in the argument of “yeah buts,” we have all but lost the possibility for providence to move in to create the miracle that was supposed to be born out of the situation. We have just argued for our limitations. We might have been right and justified in our anger but we are certainly not happy.

Suze sure said a mouthful in that succinct admonition. Our lives are hijacked when we mourn our past – whether it be for material things or physical things – thinner, firmer, younger. We become so mired in the thoughts of the past that we miss the happiness that is ours in the moment and surrender the power to change it. As A Course In Miracles so aptly puts it, “You do not ask too much of life, but far too little. When you let your mind be drawn to bodily concerns, to things you buy, to eminence as valued by the world, you ask for sorrow, not for happiness.”

When our thoughts dwell in the past or leap to an illusive future, we have just sacrificed joy in our present moment. The moment is where our power lies; it is where we live our lives. When we choose joy it not only makes us feel good in the moment, it also sets a precedent for joy in the next moment, which begins a chain reaction for our good.

Suze also emphasized gratitude, which is such an important stance. It moves us out of the realm of feeling sorry for ourselves or of being a victim, which only serves to make us miserable in the short run and attracts more of the same in the long run. That is not the spiral I wish to descend. Gratitude points us in a more positive direction, but I would go one step further than Suze’s recommendation, I would encourage appreciation. Gratitude is a wonderful emotion, but it implies overcoming some difficult situation, a struggle; while appreciation carries a vibrational essence that is not contingent upon conditions. It aligns us with the source within. I will not call it God since that word is charged with so much meaning. I will simply refer back to the field that we talked about last week. The vibration that the ancients, sages, prophets and teachers have known forever. The field which quantum physicists and scientists are just beginning to define. It is that intelligent field, that “Divine Matrix,” that connects us all. It is responsive to our thoughts and our feelings and it is instrumental in creation. When you are joyful, happy and full of appreciation, you align yourself with a Force that holds galaxies in place.

I would encourage you this week to let go of the past as best you can by focusing on all the beauty that still exists in your life. If you are sad, cry. If you are angry, go beat a pillow senseless until you can release the pain that the anger is masking and then have a good cry. Do anything you need to do to let it go. Do not dwell on the pain. Let go of the story of your past so you can begin to write a new one that will make you happy, that will bring you your hearts desire. Write a gratitude list born out of the situation, and then write an appreciation list about yourself and your life. Assume the best this very moment so that you can give birth to possibilities. As my friend Jacob would say, “lots can happen.”

I leave you this week with a quote by Henry David Thoreau who said, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in every moment.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Blame Game

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the extent to which we take responsibility for our lives. We seem to do a lot of blaming, which only serves to exacerbate feelings of powerlessness. There’s certainly a lot of blaming, criticizing and complaining going around today, especially in light of the economic climate. Nothing is more debilitating; and nothing makes us feel worse. Remember we talked about the four emotional cancers: comparing, competing, criticizing and complaining? Nothing tears down our resolve to create a happy, successful life more. It also gnaws at the very fabric of our culture. As learned scholar, peace proponent and Buddhist leader, Daisaku Ikeda states, “The power to change even the environment exists in the heart.”

It has become clear that forging peace and happiness in this world is an inside job. It starts with us, one person at a time, and then it spreads from there – talk about viral marketing!

When I was studying to be a practitioner in the Church of Religious Science, I had a teacher who used to say, “There is one common denominator in all the bad things that happen in your life…you!” We create our lives with our thoughts, words and feelings – essentially with the energy or vibration we are emanating. Those may sound like “woo-woo” concepts in this age of metaphysics but they are actually facts that are being proven every day by some of our greatest scientific minds.

We all know that we are comprised of energy and matter. Now scientists have proven that there is a field, an energy, force or framework that is the underpinning of our universe, but what does it mean to us? Dr. John Wheeler, prominent physicist and colleague of Albert Einstein, the man who coined the term “black hole;” also acknowledged this field and studied its impact on people. Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist, called this force, “the Mind of God.” He borrowed the term from Albert Einstein who began studying physics because he wanted to understand this phenomenon. Gregg Braden, scientist and author tells us that the power of our belief literally rearranges the stuff, the atoms and the molecules that our world is made of, to create the conditions of our lives – our romances, abundance, peace and even the healing of our bodies. He found that this intelligent field, The Divine Matrix as he has coined it, is not only responsive to us but it connects us all. It is clear that scientists and quantum physicists are beginning to corroborate and find evidence of the truth that the ancient traditions, mystics and spiritual masters have known for eons. It’s just taken science a little longer to catch-up. However, many scientists, including the ones we talked about here, have been driven to address big, overarching questions in physics; subjects which merged with philosophical questions about the origin of matter, information and the universe. It is becoming more clear that we are part of a vast interconnected highway of creation and we are free to use it as we choose.

It is up to us to direct our energy. Dr. Christiane Northrup tells us that we have one of the greatest chemistry sets in the world between our ears. Our brains are capable of making every chemical that our bodies need to grow, combat disease and thrive and it’s our thoughts that steer it. The question remains that if we have the ability to rearrange matter why would we want to impact it negatively for a less than a desired outcome? Of course we don’t do it on purpose yet that’s what happens every time we blame others for circumstances in our lives. Our power lies in the awareness that we are creative beings by virtue of our thoughts, which impact our own atoms and molecules, which in turn affects this quantum essence of life.

I encourage you this week take a stance of responsibility for every circumstance in your life, good and bad. Let’s avoid blaming, criticizing or complaining about anyone else. If someone flips you off in traffic, consider where you might be holding anger or rage for another; if someone hurts your feelings or is talking about you unkindly, look to see where you might be doing the same thing. Once we begin to see things differently and understand that we are first cause, we incite the power to create the lives we want. It’s time to start cleaning up our thoughts, our feelings, our actions and reactions and then watch the changes that occur. They will seem nothing short of miraculous.

I leave you this week with a quote by William James who says, “The greatest revolution in our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Limitations or Possibilities?

I’ve been thinking lately about something Ernest Holmes said. One of the most influential figures in metaphysical science and founder of Religious Science (not to be confused with Scientology), Ernest Holmes was a profound proponent of Universal Intelligence and said something that has stuck with me lately. He said,
“You cannot spend five minutes in the morning affirming that all is well and spend the rest of the day proving that it is not.“

Our minds have such a unique way of wanting to prove our beliefs right no matter what – even though it might not make us happy. A Course in Miracles puts it so succinctly when it asks,
“Would you rather be right or happy?”

Many might think, “can’t I be both?” Not if it brings situations into your life that make you unhappy. We must stop arguing for our limitations in order to attract the happiness and fulfillment that we so desperately crave.

Our beliefs – and remember they are just thoughts that we keep thinking – will be proven in our physical world by the circumstances that they attract, wanted or unwanted. My mother used to say to me, “You’re so lucky; jobs just fall into your lap.” Not only did that piss me off - I felt like I worked hard for everything that came my way and somehow she was negating my effort - but it also set into motion circumstances that began to prove my limited thoughts. In truth I did have an uncanny way of attracting opportunity, but I was so addicted to struggle that I could not accept the ease with which I could create. I thought it had to be harder than that. I began to argue for my limitations. I began to make life harder than it had to be. I was proving my position right because jobs that came easily before stopped cold, and I was anything but happy.

Again, the world in which we live supports hard work, struggle, pain and fear and we just buy into those beliefs as truth. Our addiction to pain and struggle makes us believe that it is necessary to suffer and work hard in order to succeed, “no pain, no gain,” and the belief in "The Great American Dream" and sweat equity. But the paradigm is shifting. Even the lexicon is changing. Think about how prevalent words like universe, spirituality, affirmations, karma, etc. are in our society today. This was not true even a decade ago.

Let’s stop arguing for our limitations. Let’s adopt the new beliefs that are conspiring to change the world. Begin today to pay attention to your thoughts, and to certain words that you use with regularity that might be attracting things that you do not want. Set your course in the morning by setting aside some time, before your busy day begins, to settle your mind – pray, meditate, chant – do whatever you do to put appreciation, happiness and love at the top of your list for the day. But then, as Ernest Holmes reminds us, don’t let it stop there. Don’t let your thoughts run amok in directions that don’t serve you. Ask to become more aware of those thoughts. They will begin to jump out at you like crazy by virtue of your attention to them. Remember, it’s not hard. It is a matter of awareness. We are waking up to the notion that the facts that we so strongly believe in, might not be facts at all.

This week take a few minutes in the morning to set the course for your day; then, throughout the day, focus on happier things, brighter moments, appreciation and all the beauty that surrounds you. Your limiting thoughts will come up, but as you notice them they will not hold the power that they used to. With practice it will become easier. It will become more natural. I can’t think of a better way to learn than by marinating ourselves in positive, life affirming happy thoughts and circumstances - they abound.

I leave you this week with another video, a good news story of a woman who never let a limiting thought stop her determination; she argued for possibilities and possibilities came. Oh yes, and I will leave you with a wonderful quote (I cannot resist) from Louise Hay who says,
“What you think and what you believe is what will come true for you. Your thoughts create your life; it’s that simple, and when we get that, we can make enormous changes.”